What DID They Do?

I’m not sure why, but sometimes we write what didn’t happen rather than what did happen. It’s pointless for someone to read about what isn’t happening, right? We all want action and forward movement when reading. Do you unconsciously write like this?

Examples:

Tasha: “What do you want for your birthday?”
Randy: “Well, I don’t want any more shirts or socks. Or any clothes. Or chocolate. Or any of those gift baskets.”

We know everything Randy doesn’t want, but what does he want?


The old woman heard a rattling at the back door. Was someone trying to break in? She clutched her heart. She knew it wasn’t Bubba, her ancient dog, because he was snoring loudly on the rug next to her bed. She knew it wasn’t Fluffy or Softie, her two cats, because they were on the bed curled up by her feet. Her bird was silent all night when she covered his cage, so it wasn’t Sparky who was making the noise.

We know everyone who is not creating the rattling sound. It’s totally unnecessary to tell us any of this. Instead, she needs to call 911 or grab a frying pan and check the back door. We need to know who is making the noise. Move the story forward!


Jeb snorted. “That thar ain’t the horse thief. He’s just a snotty-nosed kid.”
Roland narrowed his eyes. “If I bet all my gold that he wasn’t the one who done stole our horses, I’d lose that bet hands down.”

Why would Roland talk about losing a bet? He’d brag about winning the bet.

Roland narrowed his eyes. “If I bet all my gold that he’s the one who done stole our horses, I’d win that bet hands down.”


When the forensic specialist examined the crime scene, he realized he was not dealing with an amateur or first-time killer. Not even a second-time killer. Not a sloppy killer at all.

We don’t need to know what this killer is not—what does the specialist think the killer is? And how does he come to that conclusion?

When the forensic specialist examined the crime scene, he realized he was dealing with a highly professional killer. The rope strangling the victim was sold in pretty much any store. There were no fingerprints, no blood, no trace evidence to collect. How in the world could he figure out who did this?


Savvy Writer Tip:

It’s easy to get into the habit of writing what something is not or what someone didn’t say. But that’s counterproductive to communication. Give your readers clear information about what is going on. You also need to add new information that propels the reader forward! Write what people did say and do! 🙂

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